When you’re excited about a trip, there’s nothing worse than arriving at the airport only to discover a long check-in line and a lobby packed with people.
Alaska Airlines understands how disappointing that situation can be. To streamline the process, the airline is working to get its passengers through the lobby and to security in 5 minutes or less.
“We’ve reimagined a more seamless travel experience, and it’s coming to an airport near you,” Alaska Airlines explained in a statement.
Indeed, the airline is investing $2.5 billion in overall improvements “to enhance the airport experience within our hubs and focus cities,” including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anchorage, Alaska Airlines continues.
“As we thought about how to provide the most caring experience for our guests, it was clear the lobby was a pain point,” said Charu Jain, senior vice president of innovation and merchandising at Alaska Airlines. “We realized the majority of our guests were doing most of the kiosk actions on their own phones and we could reduce the congestion in our airports. Alaska was the first airline to introduce kiosks more than 20 years ago, and we’ll be the first airline to remove them.”
While Alaska Airlines notes that the project will be completed in stages, you should begin seeing new bag tag stations by the end of this year. New scanning machines will begin being implemented in the lobbies at Alaska Airlines’ hub airports in the spring of 2024.
“We’re looking forward to offering the new full guest experience next summer,” Jain notes.
How The Process Will Work
The first step for passengers will take place at home — or work, or anywhere for that matter. Using the Alaska Airlines app, they’ll check in and secure a boarding pass before traveling to the airport.
While the Alaska Airlines app is “ideal” for this task, it can also be completed by checking in on a desktop or laptop, and then sending a boarding pass to the traveler’s smartphone or printing one.
The next step is for travelers to tag their bags.
“New bag tag stations will replace dated kiosks in lobbies, and that’s where you’ll pay for and tag checked bags using iPad tablets,” Alaska Airlines explains. “Because you’ve completed all other actions before arriving at the airport, it’ll only take a few quick steps. Airports have already begun changing to the new tablets and guests are adapting. Three out of four travelers are arriving at airports with a boarding pass using the new technology.”
Most airports will transition to the new bag tag stations by the end of 2023, the airline continues.
The final step is to drop off luggage.
“Beginning in spring 2024, the lobbies in our hub airports will be getting innovative technology that will allow you to drop your bags off with just a few quick scans,” Alaska Airlines continues. “Popular in many international airports, we can’t wait for you to try it in Alaska’s hubs.”
The process, which is anticipated to take “less than a couple minutes,” involves using new technology for a facial scan, then a scan of the traveler’s government-issued I.D. and bags.
From there, bags will be loaded onto a belt so they can be loaded onto the aircraft.
“It’s a peace of mind to say come prepared, and if you already have a boarding pass, then you’re going to sail through this thing,” said Jain, according to USA Today.
Is There Another Option?
Most people have a smartphone, but not everybody. If you can’t use the app because you don’t have a smartphone, are hesitant to use facial scanning technology, or simply need some help, there is another option.
“We have heard from many guests that the best way we can care for them is by offering self-service options,” Alaska Airlines notes. However, “some guests may need extra assistance at the airport. For those guests, we will always have customer service agents available to provide personalized help.”
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